Sea Isle City —
The participants in this year’s Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City simply could not contain themselves.
As is tradition, the beach at JFK Boulevard was packed just before 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14, for the annual frolic into the frigid sea. Curious spectators took in the sights of hundreds of enthusiastic (and arguably crazy) plungers crowding the water’s edge. They stood just beyond long ribbons of vivid yellow tape, cautioning the cold-water bathers to keep back until the plunge officially began.
As it turned out, no one was waiting for anything official. They were just waiting for a break in that cautionary yellow tape. And at 1:56 p.m., they got their chance as a piece of plastic tape fluttered to the ground.
Despite yells of protests from plunge workers, the crowd charged and the Polar Bear Plunge 2009 was under way.
Some bathers were in and out in record time, but plenty played in the water, dunking their heads and acting as though it was just a typical summer day at the beach. However, leaving the frigid water and hitting the 40-degree air made the plungers admit otherwise.
“It was extremely cold,” said a slightly shivering Lisa D’Agostino.
The college student took the plunge with friends from the University of Delaware. She admitted that a few drinks helped take the edge off the chilly event, but it was still colder than she anticipated.
“I would not have survived on the Titanic,” she laughed.
When asked how cold the water was, Paul Philiposian was still jumping up and down to help some blood flow back into his appendages.
“God, it’s painful,” he said. “It’s freezing. Don’t kid yourself.”
Friends Cassidy McAllister, 13, and Elizabeth Olson, 12, only had one word as they scrambled out of the ocean.
“Cold!” they squealed as McAllister’s mom, Maria Sama, videotaped the duo’s feat.
Although these people sported bikinis and bathing suits, plenty of plungers were decked out in costume for the annual event. A contest for best costume was held prior to the plunge.
Since this year’s event fell on Valentine’s Day, the holiday had an impact. Brothers Rodger and Matthew McAnany were “Dos Cupidos” – red, white and blue Spanish cupids.
A group of Havertown, Pa. firemen came to brave the chilly waters for the first time, and while some simply wore plastic firefighter hats, fireman Greg Basile was also decked out in a silky, heart-patterned top and carrying a cupid’s bow and arrow.
“This is our first of many plunges,” Basile said. “It’s just something I always wanted to do.”
“He’s going through a midlife crisis,” fellow firefighter Harry Kent added in a stage whisper amidst laughter from his friends.
Jodi Shepherdson and Bette Missimer, of Philadelphia, Pa., got creative with their “Sea Isle City Wine Fest” costumes. The women were turned into bunches of grapes with green and purple balloons, respectively.
Asked how their costumes would fair in the water, they knew one thing for certain.
“We won’t sink!” said Shepherdson with a grin.
“We certainly won’t get the top half wet,” added Missimer.
After the majority of the plunge commotion settled, it was time for the queen and king of the Polar Bear Plunge to take their dip. Newly crowned Trudy Craney and Frank Reed arrived on an ice throne in the back of a pick up truck. They donned crowns and sashes as they charged the water hand-in-hand.
“I always wanted to be the queen. It’s pretty exciting,” said Craney. “This was a life goal for me. I love Sea Isle. It’s the best here.”